The Kinetoscope: A British History

The Kinetoscope: A British History

The Kinetoscope: A British History

The Kinetoscope: A British History

Synopsis

The position of the kinetoscope in film history is central and undisputed; indicative of its importance is the detailed attention American scholars have given to examining its history. However, the Kinetoscope’s development in Britain has not been well documented and much current information about it is incomplete and out of date. The purpose of the book is, for the first time, to present a comprehensive account of the unauthorized and often colorful development of British kinetoscopes, utilizing many previously unpublished sources. The commercial and technical backgrounds of the kinetoscope are looked at in detail; the style and content of the earliest British films analyzed; and the device’s place in the wider world of Victorian popular entertainment examined. A unique legal case is revealed and a number of previously unrecorded film pioneers are identified and discussed.

Excerpt

Richard Brown and Barry Anthony have been long-standing contributors to the intellectual formation focused on the study of early cinema, which emerged as a dynamic field of investigation around the time of the 1978 fiaf Conference in Brighton England and continues to this day. While each have produced significant work in their own right, they may be best known for their previous joint effort, A Victorian Film Enterprise; the History of the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company (1999), which detailed the efforts of a turn-ofthe century motion picture syndicate that dominated the high end of film production and exhibition in turn of the century England. Since the publication of this important study, the field of film history has been transformed in at least two respects, both of which are very much on display in their latest undertaking, The Kinetoscope: a British History. First, the digitization of newspapers and other paper documentation has become so extensive that access to potentially relevant data has multiplied exponentially. It is now possible to locate not just one factual needle in the proverbial haystack of printed ephemera but many isolated facts scattered across many such haystacks. As with their current achievement, this enables a more fine-grained sense of the epoch; but it also means scholars can (and must) ask new questions while looking for new and more specific answers to old ones. Second, film history is increasingly practiced under the rubric of media history. More specifically, the history of early cinema – particularly the history of motion pictures in the late nineteenth century – increasingly falls under the rubric of media archeology.

Edison’s peephole Kinetoscope dominated the field of motion pictures for less than two years (1894–95). the several books that have been written on the subject have focused on the United States and concentrated in large part on motion picture production. Its history in Britain has previously received only the most perfunctory of attention. Using the tools of digital and traditional scholarship, Brown and Anthony show how the Kinetoscope provided a crucial basis for later motion picture developments, not only in Great Britain but in the us and internationally. Edison and his long-standing business associates were frankly . . .

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